Sloan Harrison reached into the hat, with one hope in his heart. “I was hoping it was going to be easy,” he said.
He pulled out his assignment: Japanese submarines.
Sloan was one of a cafeteria-full of Indian Land Middle School seventh-graders who spent a night teaching each other lessons several generations in the making.
History teachers had students draw assignments for a variety of World War II topics, including Japanese subs, which Sloan learned carried two men and two torpedoes. One carried the first Japanese prisoner of war.
By the time his models and research paper came due, Sloan had learned more on his topic than its difficulty rating. So did Favio Delgado, whose assignment wasn’t quite so obscure – the raising of an American flag on Iwo Jima.
“A lot of people remember this photo,” Favio said.
Favio put his artistic skills to use re-creating the scene as a stand-up display. The hardest part was mirroring the image so both sides showed the scene. That view isn’t in the picture.
His research showed there were two flags, the iconic picture being the second and larger of the two flags raised. The familiarity people have with the image made his work a little easier, but also a little harder in having to find something unique to tell.
Dozens of displays grouped major battles, world leaders, bombs, airplanes, concentration camps. They didn’t shy away from subjects like the Holocaust, Adolph Hitler and Pearl Harbor. Some larger topics, such as the Nazi leader or the D-Day invasion, had several students assigned to them.
Brianna Malinowski researched the Battle of Dunkirk, a 1940 battle and evacuation of British troops amid German fire. The accounts jumped off the page as Brianna tried to imagine the scene.
“There were bombing planes, bombing the ships,” she said. “It wasn’t as easy as the articles said it was.”
Students spent half of the event sharing facts and figures with classmates, and the other half touring with pencil and paper to learn facts from others. Several left with a better appreciation for the experiences people endured during the war.
And a better appreciation for the people who endured them.
“They knew they could die, get shot, wounded,” Brianna said. “They were very brave.”